How do I speak to a friend who might be suffering from an eating disorder?

Eating Disorder Awareness Week starts February 26.
Eating Disorder Awareness Week starts February 26.
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In the UK, there are currently 1.6 million people suffering with an eating disorder. Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2018 is between February 26 and March 4. What can you do to help?

What is Eating Disorder Awareness Week?

Eating Disorder Awareness Week is designed to get more people talking about eating disorders in an aim to reach out to others.

What is this year's theme?

Beat, the UK's eating disorder charity, has themed 2018 around the question 'Why Wait?'.

On average, a person experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder waits almost three years before seeking professional help.

Following this, patients wait an average of eight weeks for an assessment, and another eight weeks before beginning treatment, according to a 2017 Beat study.

What advice does Beat give to people fighting against an eating disorder?

- Tell someone. This doesn't have to be a spoken conversation, it can be written down. Find a comfortable time for you, then explain to someone you trust about how you're feeling.

- Call the Beat Helpline freephone on 0808 801 0711 between 3pm and 10pm.

- Book a GP appointment and ask for referral to a specialist.

How should I approach a friend or family member I'm worried about?

Raising the topic of eating disorders with someone you think is suffering with one can be a difficult process. Here's how to approach the situation gently, according to Beat:

- Make sure you're informed first by reading up on eating disorder symptoms. Beat also offers a booklet: 'Eating disorders: a guide for friends and family".

- Choose and neutral time and place to talk, where you both feel comfortable and won't be disturbed.

- Have some information on hand that you can refer to.

- Focus on how the person is feeling, rather than how they eat or look.

- Don't expect a solution straight away. Have patience and reassure the person you will be there to help when they're ready.

How can I get involved in Eating Disorder Week?

Fundraising helps to support all of the hard work Beat has been doing since 1989. Beat's website has a list of fundraising ideas here to help get you started.

Beat recommends setting up a Just Giving page. The charity can then get in touch with you about your plans and help you to raise as much as possible.

You can also raise awareness by wearing your brightest socks and posting to social media, tagging Beat. Additionally, why not host a sponsored silly sock walk or dance class?

For more information, help and advice on eating disorders, visit https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/.